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Remembering Nana

By Lori Powell

My Nana…I wish I could say that I got my love of baking while sitting in the kitchen at the side of my Nana. But in fact, the opposite is true.

You see, she used to bake a long time ago but that was before she had a fire in the oven. So, as the story goes, that was the end of her baking career and my chance of ever making a cake or brownie alongside her.

However, my Nana was a marvel cooking on top of the range. I like to think that at least that part rubbed off on me.

So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered at my parents’ house a box full of old-fashioned cookie cutters. My mother confirmed that they were, in fact, her mother’s, obviously used prior to the oven incident.

I discovered an old Ateco box that was labeled, “cake and sandwich cutters.” Inside were four cutters in the shape of playing card symbols.

Nana loved bridge so I am sure they were well used by her to make little cakes or to cut out finger sandwiches, popular back then, for the other bridge players.

Nana hated being called grandma as she thought it made her sound old. She had an old soul but was rather young at heart. To this day I have not met another person who has a better sense of humor and wit than my Nana had…I miss her dearly!

So, in honor of Nana and easy baking, here is my quick recipe for brownies with a hit of espresso. She would have loved them as an after-dinner treat while sipping her usual scotch on the rocks…clinking all the way till the last crumb of brownie was devoured. Cheers, Nana!

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Rich Espresso Brownies
Serves 6

1 tablespoon espresso powder
1½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1½ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly coat a 9 X 9-inch square metal baking pan with baking spray.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together espresso powder and 2 tablespoons hot water until powder is dissolved. Transfer to a medium saucepan with butter and chocolate. Melt mixture over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally until smooth.
  • Remove pan from heat and whisk in sugar until combined well. Whisk in eggs one at a time, until each one is well incorporated. Add vanilla, flour and salt and stir until just combined.
  • Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few crumbs clinging, about 50 minutes.
  • Let brownies cool completely and with a cookie cutter or knife, cut into serving pieces. Dust with confectioner’s sugar if desired.

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